This I Believe

Ellen - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Entered on April 27, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
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You want cheese with that?

I’ve learned that no one wants to hear me complain. When someone responds to my latest whines about pre-calc and trig with the snide comment, “Can I get you some cheese with that wine?” it is time to shut up and move on. There is nothing I can do about having to take pre-calc and trig.

While I’ll readily admit that complaining can be quite a stress-reliever, actually going out and making an effort to fix the problem will get you a much better end result. When the school swimming pool was bug infested with dangerously slippery floors, moaning about being suffering swimmers didn’t really interest anyone except my fellow swimmers. So we started to ask that these problems be fixed. Between letters to the school paper and persistent parents who attended breakfast with the headmaster and asked pointed questions about the condition of the pool, we managed to put up enough of a stink that the problems are going to be fixed.

What did this experience teach me? That all the energy I can put into whining and complaining is really a lot better spent on resolving the problem. I recently met someone who had drawn the same conclusions as me. His name is Moses.

Moses is a homeless Philadelphian with a pet dog named Dude. I met Moses in the subway on a frigid January night. We proceeded to have quite a long conversation about the plight of the homeless. Moses appreciated the sandwich I brought him and did not complain about the harsh conditions he has been forced to live in. Instead, he asked if I could help him get a job. Or if I could campaign for more affordable housing. Or remember to vote carefully in the next election. Moses was not whining—so I listened. What he said made a difference. Because the truth is, it’s not just my complaining that people tune out. Had Moses been complaining, I would not remember him. But what he said stuck with me, and although I may not be writing letters to the mayor, I think about what he said. The point is, I listened, and really heard what he said because he did not complain.

Maya Angelou once said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Although it can be challenging to quell the urge to moan about the two tests I have on Friday, or the cockroach in the locker room, my efforts are much better spent studying and killing the giant bug. This I believe: You can like your life, you can love it, or you can change it. But you won’t change anything sitting there complaining.